Edward Said is one the most famous Palestinian-American literary theorist who advocates for Palestinian rights and he considered him as the Palestinian powerful political voice in the west. He was University Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University. He has written books about the United States politics, the Palestinian culture, language and art. Said also came to be known as a public intellectual who frequently discussed contemporary politics, music, culture, and literature, in lectures, newspaper and magazine columns, and books. Said co-founded the award-winning West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, made up of children from Israel, the Palestinian territories, and surrounding Arab nations. It opened in 1999. Said was also an accomplished pianist (Wikipedia, 2012).
Said provokes one of the most enthusiastic arguments ever about the effectiveness of culture and written history, “the pen is mightier than the sword.” In his book Said argues Western imperialism's have been used effectively to dominate other counties and this hegemony includes cultures, political and economic resources. He illustrates the era of 19th- and 20th-century Western culture and current mass media as marginalization tool of hegemony that has been used by the imperialism movement to silence the oppositional voices. Said provide explicit description that help in understanding the different historical eras of the western culture. In addition, it helps to understand the mechanism that cultures can be used as a domination tool. Finally, Said cautiously drew a tiny line between imperialism and colonialism while at the same time providing fundamental lessons about the relationship between power and ideology and the ways they work to create a system of domination.
The main theme of Culture and Imperialism book is culture formulates, enforces, and then leads for domination. This domination depends on the way that culturally applied. It may lead to improve the nation or it may lead for crisis.
As an Arab-American and a Palestinian refugee, Said is very sensitive to, and angry about, what he describes as the failure of Western system “Now I am temperamentally and philosophically opposed to vast system building or to totalistic theories of human history. But I must say that having studied and indeed lived within the modern empires, I am struck by how constantly expanding, how inexorably integrative they were… To speak, as O'Brien does, of "the propaganda for an expanding empire [which] created illusions of security and false expectations that high returns would accrue to those who invested beyond its boundaries"8 is in effect to speak often atmosphere created by both empire and novels, by racial theory and geographical speculation, by the concept of national identity and urban (or rural) routine. The phrase "false expectations" suggests Great Expectations, "invested beyond its boundaries" suggests Joseph Sedley and Becky Sharp, "created illusions," suggests Illusions produces--the crossings over between culture and imperialism are compelling” (Said,1993,p.6). Said feels lonely, angry and dose not accept the expansion of imperialism theory . In fact, Said sent a message that the U.S. people should understand the situation and the future of their country. In addition, he sent another message for the media to help people understanding instead of blackmailing them. Said had lived most of his life in the United States and he received a lot of appreciation from everywhere. As a result, he feels himself obligated and guilty to watch the imperialism empire expanding through wars and understanding the situation without share it with the rest of the American nation. He defines imperialism as "thinking about, settling on, controlling land that you do not possess, that is distant, that is lived on and owned by others" (Said,1993,p. 7). Thus, Said claims that imperialism has occurred to beautify the colonization face and applies the last segment of Culture in the United States since World War II. Said continued his description of imperialism and he drew the line between power and domination as “imperialism" means the practice, the theory, and the attitudes of a dominating metropolitan center ruling a distant territory; while "colonialism," which is always a consequence of is the implanting of settlements on distant territory” (Said, 1993, p.9). Said describes the relationship between imperialism and domination as cause and effect. Darkness hearts are normal effects of power and hegemony without cultural ethics and acceptance for other cultures. Said argues that “A more interesting type of secular interpretation can emerge, altogether more rewarding than the denunciations of the past, the expressions of regret for its having ended, or-'even more wasteful because violent and far too easy and attractive--the hostility between Western and non-Western cultures that leads to crises” (Said,1993,p.19). In other words, Said provokes people’s attention to read critically and increase their sympathy and cultural acceptance levels. He believes that the dark hearts and the lack of cultural ethics will lead the country to crises. In addition, he mentioned a practical example of the British Empire and he exhorts the people to learn the lessons from history. As a result of his consciousness, Said went out of the normal stereotypical thinking and he founded the “contrapuntal readings”. In his approach, Said declares that there is a desideratum to critical reading of texts. He recommends that reading a text contrapuntally means to “reread it not univocally but contrapuntally, with a simultaneous awareness both of the metropolitan history that is narrated and of those other histories against which (and together with which) the dominating discourse acts” (said, 1993, p.51). After that, he used his new approach in his arguments with Western views. In many ways, Said was proud of his new approach and he believes that he provides the magical solution which appears in “Reading and interpreting the major metropolitan cultural texts in this newly activated, reinforced 'way could not have been possible without the movements of resistance that occurred everywhere in the peripheries against the empire” (Said, 1993, p.53). Said focuses on the Western written texts, mainly the novel, to illustrate his conspiracy theory. He refers these novels to the imperialism projects. He argues that “Recent intellectual and academic discourse has tended to separate and divide these: most scholars are specialists; most of the attention that is endowed with the status of expertise is given to fairly autonomous subjects, e.g., the Victorian industrial novel, French colonial policy in North Africa, and so forth. The tendency for fields and specializations to subdivide and proliferate, I have for a long while argued, is contrary to an understanding of the whole, when the character, interpretation, and direction or tendency of cultural experience is at issue” (said, 1993, p.13). In my point of view, this is broad, comprehensive quote because it is impossible to consider all kinds of art as features of imperialism and tools of marginalization. However, I can justify his anger of some authors such as Joseph Conrad and Jane Austen as ideological, intellectual antagonism because their novels themes helped in determining imperialistic experiences. Said’s arguments stems from the different uses of culture and his refusal to merge from a public tool to enrich nations knowledge to become colonization endorsement tool.
However, Said intentionally provokes that there is a conspiracy. This conspiracy explicitly appears in the American media coverage particularly with regards to the Middle East issues. Said explained that “ During Gulf War of 1999 against Iraq, Americans watched the war on television with a relatively unquestioned certainty that they were seeing the reality, whereas what they saw was the most covered and the least reported war in history. The images and the prints were controlled by the government, and the major American media copied one another or shown (like CNN) all over the world any attention to speak off was paid to the damage done to the enemy” (Said, 1993, p.302). Said articulates his contempt for the American television news channels. This contempt stems from the tremendous role that the media perform to be the government persuasive agent of hegemony and to contribute in serving the government blackmailing agendas. I accede with Said’s concerning about the American media rule in changing American attitudes against the Muslim world, predominantly after 9/11. However it explicitly appears on the ground that the Muslims in the United States have faced harassment and discrimination but I think that Said’s indictments are overgeneralization. Conspicuously, an abundance of Americans have distinguished between Muslims and Islamist and the old perspective has changed for good.
Said’s character appears explicitly as he didn’t separate himself from his own heritage and he is proud of being Palestinian. However, Said’s Culture and Imperialism explicitly illustrates the role of culture and the relationship between culture and colonization. In addition, Said sent stinging criticism for the imperialistic regimes and he started by himself and then asked us to start resisting. Also, Said includes several elites ideas that are not easy to read but he also admitted that the complication of the text is necessary to read and analyze critically. He sent also messages to the corrupt regimes who overpower faces their people and simultaneously they have normalization and mobilization relationship with Israel. After reading this book, I feel that Said was able to predict the Arab Spring that happens as a result of people’s irritation with their government against marginalization.
Reading Culture and Imperialism book was for me great experience to promote my knowledge of the American history and culture. In Palestine, Students have studied the British curriculum until 2002; however, this book encourages me to go back read some of the books that we taught. I have taken away from this book the motivation to read critically, to understand and search for the real reasons behind the written or spoken words. Said explicitly explained that the history is interrelated, that the past affects the present, and definitely what we plant today will draw our future. When Said died, we lost one of the greatest, most intelligent, nationalist critic and writer who were willing to confront the global issues.